We love moist, fruity quick breads–and this is one of our favorites.  It’s nutty, flavorful, and full of wholesome ingredients.  We would like to share this recipe with you and demonstrate the baking principles for wonderful quick breads.

The definition of quick breads is imprecise.  Often cookbooks classify muffins, coffeecakes, and biscuits as quick breads–not just those moist loaf breads made without yeast–breads like banana nut bread and date nut bread.  And there is a thin line between quick breads and cakes.  Quick breads contain less sugar and fat than cakes.  They usually, but not always, contain fruits or nuts to add flavor and moisture and make up for the low percentage of fat and sugar.  When we refer to quick breads, we’re talking about loaf-shaped breads without yeast.

There are two major makeup methods for quick breads–the muffin method and the creaming method.  In the creaming method, we cream the fat (butter or shortening) with the sugar until light and then add the other ingredients.  In the muffin method, we mix the liquids and the dry ingredients separately and then stir them together until just combined.  Today, we will look at the muffin method.  (We’ll use the creaming method in another newsletter.)

In preparation, grease an 81/2-by 41/2-inch loaf pan.  Dust the pan lightly with flour by placing a spoonful in the greased pan and jostling it about by tapping the pan against the heel of your hand.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack placed in the center of the oven.  Your pan should have an even coating as shown.

Here are the ingredients that we will use in our liquid mix:

3/4 cups very hot water
3     tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (5 ounces) diced dried apricots
1     tablespoon orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice
1     large egg

1. Heat the water until very hot, nearly boiling.  You can do so in the microwave.  Pour the water into a large bowl.  The bowl should be large enough to mix the batter in.
2. Add the butter.
3. Dice the apricots into 1/4-inch pieces and add them to the hot water.
4. Grate the outer skin from an orange until you have a tablespoon full.  You only want to get the orange peel without scraping deep enough to get the pithy white second layer, which is bitter.  Add this zest to the hot water mixture.
5. Squeeze the juice from two oranges.   Add 3/4-cup of the juice to the liquid mixture.
6. Stir in one large egg.  Use a fork to mix the egg well.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2  teaspoon salt
1  1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1  1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup walnuts
Store the bread in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week.  This bread, like most quick breads, is much better served the next day.  The bread can also be frozen.Make sure that they are thoroughly mixed.  We like to use a large whisk.

7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Stir with a large spatula until just combined.  If it is mixed too much, the action will develop the gluten in the flour and the bread will not be as tender as it should be.  (We don’t like to make muffins and quick breads with our electric mixer.)
8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and place it in the oven.  Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread tests done.  When it is done, a skewer or large toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf should come out clean.
9. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for five minutes.   Invert the pan and remove the loaf to finish cooling on the wire rack.  If the bread does not come free easily, the top edges of the loaf are probably bound to the pan.  Try lifting the edges away from the pan with a sharp knife.

Peach Variation.  This bread is just as good with dried peaches instead of apricots.

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